Describing Variation in Bird Sounds

Bird sounds vary on many levels. When talking about variation, it would be nice to be able to distinguish exactly which kind of variation we mean. [Read more]

The Seven Basic Tone Qualities

Tone quality is the distinctive voice of a sound — the thing that allows you to tell the difference between a violin and a trumpet when they’re both playing the same note. It comes in very handy when identifying birds by sound, but people have tended to differ in their notions of how to describe it. Today we’ll introduce basic tone quality vocabulary. [Read more]

Changes in Speed and Pitch, and Multi-noted Series

Now that we’ve looked at the five basic pitch patterns and the four basic song patterns, let’s explore a couple of ways to extend and combine the vocabulary we’ve learned. [Read more]

The Four Basic Song Patterns

In the last post, I covered the five basic pitch patterns, introducing some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of individual notes. Today I’m going to introduce some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of groups of notes — that is, different types of songs. [Read more]

The Five Basic Pitch Patterns

The “How to Read Spectrograms” section of this blog is in desperate need of an upgrade, so today I’m starting a series of posts to help people describe and visualize sounds as simply and clearly as possible. Our first topic: pitch patterns. [Read more]

A Veery’s Two Voices

The Veery is a polyphonic singer; it sings simultaneously with both sides of its syrinx. The bird literally has two voices, one from each of its lungs, and it can control them separately. A single Veery sings a duet — and when you slow the song down, you can hear the bird actually harmonize with itself. [Read more]

Describing What You Hear

You don’t need to know any fancy terminology, have any musical training, or use any “conceptual frameworks” when describing bird sounds — you just need to sit down and take the time to do each step carefully. It will change the way you listen, and it will change the way you talk about what you hear. [Read more]

The Vowels of Birds

The more I study phonetic transcriptions, the more convinced I become that, even though the people writing the transcriptions may be completely unaware of it, their choice of vowels almost always follows a consistent set of rules for indicating the pitch and inflection of the bird sound. [Read more]